Apple's Tim Cook on Leadership: 'The Most Important Data Points Are People'

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

Stay informed and join our daily newsletter now!
Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy
Apple's Tim Cook on Leadership: 'The Most Important Data Points Are People'
Image credit: Reuters | Robert Galbraith
Guest Writer
2 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When Tim Cook assumed the role of Apple’s CEO in 2011, he had some near-impossible shoes to fill. Steve Jobs was already a legend, his status as a genius, once-in-a-century innovator having been cemented long before his death six weeks later. 

How do you directly follow the force behind the iPhone, iMac, iPad and iTunes? Simply put, there is no way to prepare, Cook told Fortune in an in-depth interview. After becoming CEO, he was immediately beset by predictions that Apple would sink without Jobs and that, as the company's new leader, he would usher in an age of un-innovation. This, of course, has so far failed to play out: Under Cook, the company has rolled out the Apple Watch and Apple Pay, among other potentially game-changing projects.

Cook says his baptism-by-fire – which included the Apple Maps debacle and some high-profile hires and subsequent firings – taught him valuable lessons about the art of leadership.

Related: Tim Cook Reveals the Sectors Apple Wants to Conquer Next

Cook has an operations background. As an engineer, he told Fortune, you have the luxury of analyzing specific problems. But as CEO, there are so many realms -- hiring, culture, marketing, product design etc. – that need to be managed at once. “You’re engaged in so many things that each particular thing gets a little less attention,” he said. “You need to be able to operate on shorter cycles, less data points, less knowledge, less facts.”

As CEO, he says, “if you believe that the most important data points are people, then you have to make conclusions in relatively short order.” It’s a lesson Cook learned in early 2013, when he hired John Browett, the former head of the U.K.-based discount electronics chain Dixon’s. It was quickly apparent that Browett didn’t fit in with Apple’s culture, and instead of hemming Cook swiftly cut him loose, firing him in March of that year. “You want to push the people who are doing great,” told the outlet. “And you want to either develop the people who are not or, in a worst case, they need to be somewhere else.”

Related: With ResearchKit, Apple Wants to Use Your iPhone For Medical Research

More from Entrepreneur

Get heaping discounts to books you love delivered straight to your inbox. We’ll feature a different book each week and share exclusive deals you won’t find anywhere else.
Jumpstart Your Business. Entrepreneur Insider is your all-access pass to the skills, experts, and network you need to get your business off the ground—or take it to the next level.
Entrepreneur Store scours the web for the newest software, gadgets & web services. Explore our giveaways, bundles, "Pay What You Want" deals & more.

Latest on Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur Media, Inc. values your privacy. In order to understand how people use our site generally, and to create more valuable experiences for you, we may collect data about your use of this site (both directly and through our partners). By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the use of that data. For more information on our data policies, please visit our Privacy Policy.